And we’re off! All aboard the big-blue-battle-bus, union flag fluttering from the aerial, a contender for ‘least-pithy election slogan ever’ stretching from one end to the other: “Securing a better future for you, your family and Britain”. I think Obama’s “Yes we can” may just have had the edge.
David Cameron did not, of course, take his new bus to the Palace. He didn’t actually need to go to the Palace at all because under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act Parliament now dissolves itself without any assistance from Her Majesty. But he went anyway because that’s what Prime Ministers do at the end of their term of office, and if he wants to look anything on on this campaign, it’s Prime Ministerial.
So the first speech of the campaign was made outside the door of Number 10. No Government insignia on view, because the Tory party is not the Government, but the semiotics are important. “Don’t let Ed Miliband through this door” he said, or chaos the like of which you can only imagine will be just around the corner.
The image makers were hard at work in Chippenham as well. Cameron had arrived dressed all business like, regular blue-suited Prime Minsiterial get-up. By the time he walked into the hall to speak to 200 or so party faithful the tie had gone, the jacket had bitten the dust, the sleeves were rolled up. ‘I’m ready for the fight’ said the dress-code.
In fact the whole event was made for TV. Supporters banked up behind the PM in full view of the cameras, multiple slogans in hand, all handed out by party managers with instructions to ‘hold them up high whenever there’s applause’. “A strong economy for a strong NHS”. “A clear economic plan”. “A Britain that lives within its means”. And so on and so on.
The young had all been moved to the front presumably to try and disguise the fact the Tories have a slight problem with their age-profile. They could not, however, disguise their issues with attracting ethnic voters. Wiltshire may be a pretty white part of the UK, but this audience appeared to be entirely white. And 90% over 50. No wonder George Osborne seems to look after pensioners so well.
It’s only day 1. How many more of these staged events lie ahead? It hardly bears thinking about.
James Mates will be following the Conservative campaign throughout the General Election.
Carl Dinnen will keep up with the latest from the Labour campaign trail.
Rohit Kachroo will be following the Ukip campaign.
Emily Morgan will be with the Liberal Democrats.